Practically Speaking

Kyle and her husband moved to Brookfield in 1986. She became active in local politics and started blogging in 2004. Her focus is primarily on local issues but often includes state and national topics, too. Kyle looks at things from the taxpayers' perspective in a creative, yet down to earth way, addressing them from a practical point of view.

Dr. Gibson flirts with 4K again to cure Elmbrook's budget woes

4-K, Education, Elections, Elmbrook, H. Clinton 2008, Obama 2008, TAXES

Last night I caught a bit of the July school board meeting on cable TV*. The board was discussing Elmbrook's coming budget woes and the difficult decisions our district needs to make to keep our schools operating within budget. (Unfortunately, I missed at least the first half of the meeting, but I will watch again and take better notes.)

Glen Allgaier had created a list of cost saving possibilities--none of them an easy choice. The list included the unpleasant prospects of closing a school and increasing class sizes. The idea was we needed to dramatically cut spending in order to meet our financial obligations. There seemed to be agreement that drastic measures were necessary.

Then Dr. Gibson chimed in that we could also look at increasing revenue producers to solve our money problems as well as implementing cost savings measures. That was when he mentioned 4K as well as looking at nonresident students. Gibson acknowledged that we had decided to forgo 4K but it seemed the state aid dollar potential was still tempting him.

Another "revenue producer" would be to go to the taxpayers with a referendum to raise the spending cap!

The idea of coming at taxpayers on the heels of our $62mil high school referendum would be very distasteful to me--especially considering our budget shortfalls are nothing new.  While I had suggested a referendum to raise the spending cap to increase the maintenance/capital improvement budget as a way to deal with the high school improvements and needs, that spending cap referendum was to be instead of not in addition to the high school referendum!

4K was mentioned not as an improvement to education but solely as a cure for budget woes--as in increasing the school budget, not decreasing the taxpayer's burden. Our board decided last fall to eliminate 4K because it was not shown to improve student performance in the long run. But here we are again mentioning 4K as a possibility.

Universal 4K is also a subject of the presidential election. Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama support the idea of nationwide 4K. The Democrat party believes in pre-K as it is sometimes called.

Today, the Wall Street Journal's Protect Our Kids From Preschool summed up much of what I wrote last fall when Elmbrook was deciding their 4K question. In a nutshell, there is no longterm evidence that 4K is beneficial in the long run:

Barack Obama says he believes in universal preschool and if he's elected president he'll pump "billions of dollars into early childhood education." Universal preschool is now second only to universal health care on the liberal policy wish list...

But is strapping a backpack on all 4-year-olds and sending them to preschool good for them? Not according to available evidence.
Mr. Obama asserted in the Las Vegas debate on Jan. 15 that every dollar spent on preschool will produce a 10-fold return by improving academic performance, which will supposedly lower juvenile delinquency and welfare use -- and raise wages and tax contributions. Such claims are wildly exaggerated at best.

In the last half-century, U.S. preschool attendance has gone up to nearly 70% from 16%. But fourth-grade reading, science, and math scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) -- the nation's report card -- have remained virtually stagnant since the early 1970s.

The piece concludes with:

If Mr. Obama is serious about helping children, he should begin by fixing what is clearly broken: the K-12 system. The best way of doing that is by building on programs with a proven record of success. Many of these involve giving parents control over their own education dollars so that they have options other than dysfunctional public schools. The Obamas send their daughters to a private school whose annual fee in middle school runs around $20,000. Other parents deserve such choices too -- not promises of subsidized preschool that they may not want and that may be bad for their kids.

Jay Weber talked about 4K in his 8am hour today too. A man whose wife taught in Elmbrook's kindergarten program called in. He said his wife presented 25 reasons 4K was beneficial at the board meeting, but the board voted to discontinue. The caller then added, he wouldn't send his children for 4K! (He must have had his own 26 reasons it wasn't beneficial?)

Finland was again mentioned as a standard. Finland doesn't start school until age 7. Their students do better than the rest of the world.

Taxpayers are asked for more and more money each year, whether at the local or national level. Can we at least narrow down the wish list to programs that actually work?


Past post: Does 4K deserve tax dollars? 

If you wish to read other past postings on this subject, just click the tag 4K and they will come up. 


*Our venture in to cable TV was short lived. We signed on with TimeWarner for a special deal that wasn't delivered as promised. Now to get the package that was presented would cost $30 more per month. Too much for television! Monday the cable TV will be shut off. 




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